The regional partners have undertaken a number of pieces of research and feasibility studies to inform our approach. Primary research is costly and, therefore, a potential area of underinvestment in future. With the exception of waste management information, it is often difficult to derive meaningful information about resource use and consumption at the regional level. Also, environmental indicators are generally lagging behind existing trends; without sufficient ‘leading’ indicators it is difficult to confidently assess the efficacy of policy activities.
Information failures still exist – SME businesses in the main do not understand their ability to make resource efficiency improvements and the need to eco-innovate. Even where they understand the agenda, they may not have the internal capacity to make simple changes. Moreover, the ability to make costs savings may not a powerful driver for change in all cases. Awareness raising is needed on the rising costs and price volatility of energy as the developing world places increased pressure on key materials including metals and oil.
In delivering resource efficiency support to businesses, it was found:
- Intensive and continuing one to one support to businesses is essential to implement resource efficiency savings
- Awareness raising does not lead to behavioural change in isolation
- It is more worthwhile to target support at businesses with high potential environmental impact than to target specific sectors
- The agenda is delivered by many stakeholders e.g. local authorities, WRAP and other business support providers. Therefore, strong working relationships are important to enhance consistency of key messages and avoid duplication
In developing the waste and recycling sector the following types of support have proved successful in supporting SMEs and driving job creation and business growth:
- Technical support delivery through a flexible framework of consultants has provided a range of services that has met the needs of a diverse supply chain
- Capital support provision to SMEs has supported innovation and boosted growth; funding calls (for example through Envirolink Northwest) have proved popular and uptake has been exceptional
- Support for commercialisation of R&D has filled the gap between R&D and securing markets for new and innovative products and services in the sector
- Information and networking events, designed to specifically address market and industry needs, e.g. support for development of Site Waste Management Plans, have been recognised (from delegate feedback) as a valuable tool in support provision